Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pose of the Month: Frog Pose, Adho Mukha Mandukasana

By April Evans

You might recognize this Pose of the Month from many other fitness modalities. Frog Pose is an extremely useful stretch for runners or other athletes who risk injury to the groin or hip area from large, explosive movements. Frog pose is also very helpful for those who spend lots of time sitting and are at risk for developing overly tight hips. This version of frog pose (there are two other asanas called “frog pose:” mandukasana and bhekasana) is most commonly found in Yin Yoga, which focuses on connective tissue in addition to muscles.

  • Opens the Groin
  • Combats tight hips
  • Provides slight backbend
  • Aids digestion

How to:

1. Facing sideways on your mat, come to the widest-kneed child’s pose you can.

2. Take the hands underneath the shoulders and shift your hips forward, like a wide-kneed table top, then adjust your feet so that the ankles are in line with the knees, and flex the feet.

3.  Begin to move the hips back in space so they are in line with the knees.  The thighs are working toward being parallel to the long edges of your mat, and the shins are working toward being parallel to the short edges of your mat.

4.  You might be able to lower the forearms down to the floor underneath the shoulders, or perhaps even rest the belly, chest, and chin on the floor and extend the arms forward.

5.  Check that the hips stay in line with the knees and that the low back doesn’t arc down into a banana shape. Focus on lengthening the tailbone back.

6.  Stay for at least 5 breaths.


1. A blanket can be used under the knees if they are tender. Those with knee injuries should avoid this pose.

2.  If you have a tender low back, keep the feet closer together and allow the hips to remain a little forward of the knees. If tenderness persists, come out of the pose. Use Baddha Konasana as a groin stretch instead.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Taxes and Tadasana Don't Mix!

We're excited and pleased to announce that New York State has recently decided New York City yoga studios specifically will not be subject to sales tax (if a studio offers pilates or any other type of class, then all are subject to sales tax), on that grounds that "instruction in yoga is not an exercise activity because yoga generally includes within its teachings not simply physical exercise, but activities such as meditation, spiritual chanting, breathing techniques, and relaxation skills." 

We are so glad that so many studios were able to work together to do good! Thank you to all those at Yoga for New York and at participating studios for all your hard work. 

For more information on the legislation, you can check it out here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How Hot is Too Hot?

We love to sweat it out, but when the temperatures outside rival those in the hot yoga studio, are we still going to be okay?

"...it should go without saying whether practicing in extreme heat or in the middle of a blizzard: Drink plenty of fluids both before and during, and stop when you need to. “There is no shame in paying attention to your own body,”

Check out this interesting article by Alyssa Giacobbe of Kripalu, and tell us what you think. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Teacher of the Month: Jessica Chazen

By: April Evans

If you have ever had the pleasure of taking Jessica Chazen’s class, you know that she fills the studio with a precious awareness that makes students eager to listen, explore, and change. The word “mindful” always seems appropriate when describing her class. Her sequences are consistently amazingly creative and precisely constructed to lead students toward a new understanding, and her thorough instruction ensures that all students remain simultaneously safe and challenged. Her calm, steady, and open demeanor is strong enough to ground everyone in the room, but leaves students the space to explore their own minds, hearts, and asana practices.

Join Jessica for class at the York Studio:
Mondays 4:35-5:50pm All Levels Vinyasa
Tuesdays 6:00-7:00am All Levels Vinyasa
Sundays 1:05-2:20pm  All Levels Vinyasa
Sundays 4:20-5:35pm  All Levels Vinyasa

When did you first discover yoga?
I first discovered yoga with my oldest sister. She took me to Jivamukti downtown for my first class. I was next to Russell Simmons, so my very first class we were doing forearm stands and handstands - it was a super challenging class. I was definitely overwhelmed, but I had a lot of fun. I spent a lot of time laughing. I thought, “This is crazy, I can’t do these things.” But something about it made me want to come back.

How long have you been teaching? 
I was certified in October 2009 and started teaching just a few months after that. So I’ve been teaching going on 3 years.

What makes your class unique?
I try to bring something new every single class.  Whether it’s sequencing or a really unique pose or some new special music I think is really cool, I always try to keep my students on their toes. I like to give my students something fresh to think about each time, be it the bandhas or drishti or yoga philosophy. I make it a point to take class with as many different teachers as possible. That way I have lots of inspiration coming in so that each week I can plan the most creative and fun class possible.

What is your favorite pose to teach?
Right now I actually love to teach utkatasana. I used to hate it, but now I love to teach it because I just recently discovered how to feel both comfortable and powerful in this pose. Every time I’m teaching it in class I try to come into it myself and tell students exactly how to find that balance in their own bodies.

What is you favorite pose to practice?
Triangle pose. I’ve felt really at home in the pose from the very first day that I came into it.  My approach to this pose has definitely changed over the years, but it always feels kind of perfect in my body. Whether I’m approaching it from a strength-building stance or a stretching perspective, I definitely feel open and serene when I’m practicing this pose.
Best advice for beginners?
Approach your practice with a sense of humor and with a smile. There’s no need to take yourself or the practice too seriously. Don’t talk yourself out of something that looks difficult – always try it. You’re never going to know unless you try it. And don’t hold your breath!

Best advice for more advanced yogis?
Always consider yourself a beginner. Notice when your ego shows up on your mat and when it does, notice when you’re over-congratulating yourself or overly focused on how the pose looks. Close your eyes, go within, and notice instead how the pose feels. Be grateful to the teachers who make you look at a pose a different way even though you might think that your way is the best way.

What is your biggest yoga pet peeve?
When people leave during savasana or don’t take savasana. You worked so hard all class.  You earned it, it’s the most important pose. And those who think that using blocks is cheating.
How do you incorporate yoga into your daily life?
I do my best to be completely absorbed in what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I recently quit wearing my iPod while walking around the streets because I realized it was making me escape into my head rather than looking around and observing the people and the architecture around me and being in the present moment. I try to apply the level of awareness that I have in my yoga practice to my everyday life, like when I eat my meals or how I honor my relationships.

Passions besides yoga?
I have quite a few: food and cooking (for myself and for my boyfriend), movies, swimming in the ocean, dancing to great music, my cats, and travel.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Studying the Yoga Sutras: On Practice (Abhyasa) and Detachment (Vairagya)

By Lisa Dawn Angerame

In the first eleven Yoga Sutras, we learned that the goal of yoga is to abide in our true nature, freedom and peace, and that we have five types of thoughts that constantly whirl and prevent us from doing so. If this is the goal and our thoughts are the obstacles, then what are the means?  Bhagavan Patanjali says practice, abhyasa, and detachment, vairyagya.  Both are equally responsible and neither is more important. While the English translation of these two words prove to be general in nature and widely applicable in many arenas such as work, sport, school, etc., my teacher A. G. Mohan says we should not water down the Yoga Sutras and the meaning of abhyasa and vairagya by applying them to these types of worldly endeavors.

As we have been taught, and certainly experienced, thoughts lead to either bondage or freedom.  In order to move towards freedom, we must retrain our minds and release ourselves from past habits and old patterns.   We must practice flowing toward freedom. Once the mind tastes peace, the more peace we enjoy and the more we want to flow in that direction. 

Abhyasa is practice that must be repeated and continuous.  It is not just practice, but a practice of returning constantly and making the effort to change the direction of the flow of the mind from worldly affairs toward freedom. The mind has the tendency to move in its old patterns; we have to stay out front and remember the goal. We must be steadfast in this effort to make any real change in the hope of reaching the goal of yoga.

Abhyasa becomes firmly established and rooted when it is cultivated and pursued without interruption, over a long period of time, with devotion. We become grounded in the practice of always returning to practice.  We create new habits and we are no longer bound by past patterns.

Vairagya is an internal mental disposition defined as detachment, a state of mind when desire is gone.  Through practice, over time, vairagya becomes possible. We have to make an effort to break the attachment and become free from the bondage created by our attachments to worldly objects. We work to identify areas where there is still some attachment and intensify the practice of detachment. 

Vairagya eventually arises when all of the senses are withdrawn, even the mind itself, from all objects. It is an unchanging state of utter desirelessness, utter freedom, where the mind is completely controlled. To experience vairayga is to have internal awareness of our supreme mastery, complete control, over the mind. Nothing, no person or object, will create any thoughts or any attachments that lead to whirling in the mind.  Then we work to sustain what is known as para vairagya, literally a higher or superior state of detachment that arises through the sustained experience of the difference between the Self and the mind or our thoughts.

We have now reviewed the first sixteen sutras! Maharishi Mahesh Yogi says that enlightenment, the full and permanent experience of pure consciousness lively in one’s awareness, requires both intellectual understanding and direct experience. Take some time to internalize these sutras and their meanings. Then start to practice.  Only then you will you truly know yoga.   

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pose of the Month: Vasisthasana

By April Evans

Vasistha is said to have been a wise sage. If you’ve ever done Side Plank, you know very well how enlightening this pose can be! Vasisthasana is one of the most fundamental arm balances, and developing strength in this pose will give all other arm balances increased stability and ease. It also comes with a multitude of leg and arm variations to suit the mood of any practitioner.

  • Strengthens the arms
  • Strengthens the abdomen
  • Strengthens the legs
  • Stabilizes the lower back
  • Stretches and strengthens the wrists
  • Improves balance

How to:

1. Come to Plank Pose, the top of a push-up. Take all the weight into the left hand and roll to the outer edge of the left foot and stack the right foot on top of the left. If you are building strength in the pose, lower your left knee and shin onto the floor and spin the outer edge of the right foot down like in Warrior II.

2. Check that the right hip isn’t rolling out to the side. Check the hip alignment by stepping the inside of the right foot to the floor in front of the left and press down strongly into the inner edge of the right foot. Re-stack the feet if desired.

3. Take the right hand to the right hip and square the shoulders toward the side wall. Start to lengthen the right arm, taking the fingers toward the ceiling.

4. Challenge the balance by taking the gaze to the side wall and then up to the ceiling.

5. Press the heels into the floor and firm the thighs. Feel the long diagonal created in space from the heels to the crown of the head.

6. Breathe for at least 5 deep breaths.

7. Return to Plank Pose.

8. Lower the knees and sit the hips back to the heels in Balasana (Child’s Pose). Circle the wrists.

9. Repeat on the right side.

Popular Variations:

1. Extend the top arm overhead for a side stretch

2. Take the sole of the top foot to the inside of the bottom leg for Vrksasana (Tree) to open the outer hip.

3. Take yogi toe lock around the big toe of the top leg and extend the foot toward the ceiling to open the hamstring.

4. If you have tender wrists, take Vasisthasana with the bottom forearm across the top of your mat rather than balancing on just the bottom hand.

And remember: Falling is the most popular way to come out of the pose!